The isolation diaries

Things aren’t ‘normal’ right now. Change on a minor scale can be intimidating, although compared to the transformation society has undergone in a matter of weeks, it feels scarier than ever.

Whilst we stew in these strange times, going full steam ahead as normal doesn’t really seem right. This applies to the content I am creating at the moment, too. For obvious reasons, arranging outfit shoots is pretty much out of the question. Not only this, but posing in front of a camera to show off clothes that I am definitely not wearing in my day-to-day life evokes a forced, fake quality, which is exactly the opposite of what I continue to try and portray on this blog.

I share outfits that make me feel good, items that I genuinely style up throughout the week, and often photos are taken in the middle of a busy day where I’m already sporting the look in question. I’ve built up an honest and transparent platform to talk about my life and the fashion that is supplementary to it.

This is a new and unique experience for all of us, and there are no right or wrong answers (except for staying inside – we should all definitely do that). In all honesty, I don’t know what to do. No one does. All I know is I don’t want to stop sharing my thoughts and photos altogether, so the route that appears to be most appropriate is a temporary shift in formatting to convey the raw reality of life in isolation.

My mum mentioned in passing that I should keep a diary of the coronavirus pandemic; documenting what is happening each day, how I’m feeling etc. so that I can reflect on it and even share behind the scenes of a monumental historic event with future generations of my family.

The situation itself has now become normalised to an extent: working from home, tuning out the white noise of the draining 5-o’clock news bulletin… It’s easy to forget that most of us are in the midst of the biggest crisis that has ever infected our lives – it’s fucking HUGE! With so many contrasting depictions of positivity and guilt, it should be made clear that we are each entitled to feel whatever we do, and cope with this in any way that is bearable to us as individuals.

I hate the fact that this will be taught in history lessons. I don’t want to be a part of whatever is in the curriculum. But I suppose at some point we all inevitably will be for one reason or another, and we can only hope that our mistakes will educate and influence better actions in years to come.

Writing such a journal seemed a bit jarring as I have this space (also I would require a shiny new notebook to carry out the task), so to that end I have decided to start sharing a weekly post summarising different stages of the lockdown and encapsulating the tumultuous sensations that accompany it.

There will be no rigid structure or timeframe, purely a collection of whatever is on my iPhone roll or camera backlog from the past few days along with any revelations that pop into my head. Surprisingly, I am feeling more inspired than I have for a long while in terms of ideas, writing, and outfit planning, so I don’t want to let this sudden surge in creativity go to waste.

Being bound to one location and with limited resources has unlocked a desire to experiment with self-timing shots, varying backdrops and capturing the essence of life at home: good and bad. Without the luxury of friends to snap a quick picture of my outfit, I am appreciating cosy interiors and the purpose of accessories in a way I hadn’t before. I’m seeking out the beauty in small things and learning to trust what feels good with my own portraits and photography. Usually I’m permanently in front of the lens, so it’s challenging and enthralling to turn that on it’s head.

One thing I want to make extremely plain is that I’m not floating through this with a constantly cheerful outlook. I have ups and downs; some days I am grateful for the urge to get out and use my one hour of exercise, others I want to drink a bottle of wine and collapse crying into a pillow. Initially I think I plastered on a smile and assumed I had to be positive because I still have my job and am in a good position – now I realise that’s bollocks, I’m allowed to be worried regardless. I ride the wave and express whatever is on my mind and through being so open have found a harmony between the two extremes.

Anyway, without further ado… here is my first in the ‘Isolation Diaries’ series. I hope you like it!

BODYSUIT Topshop (gifted) | TROUSERS Gerry Weber (old charity shop find) | BOOTS Dr. Martens

Okay, slightly cheating here as these were taken prior to the official UK lockdown, but I wanted to share these as at this point we were still choosing to isolate from the public and searching for activities. Looking back, I’m really glad that Josh and I spent this weekend together as now we are apart for the foreseeable since we live in separate households.

We went for a walk on the common with my mum, then headed up to Cradoc Golf Club’s driving range (which is always deserted in the evening), taking with us a couple of clubs, some booze and the speaker. It was a cold but beautiful day, although as I swung wildly at golf balls I felt an impending sense of desolation. This area is my home, and Josh is the one person (aside from my best friends and family) that feels like home, but the seriousness of the occasion was setting in along with the day’s tired sun.

DRESS vintage M&S from a charity shop

I have been trying not to inhale alcohol as a remedy every single evening, but am finding it increasingly difficult to avoid a tempting g&t to numb the pain of persistent negativity. Suddenly it’s acceptable to get roaring drunk at home on a Wednesday night and the glorious weather we’ve been having is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand I’m bitter that I’m not sat in a beer garden slurping pints with my nearest and dearest, and on the other I’m desperately appreciative of the sun’s appearance allowing me to devour a good book in the garden (extravagant beverage in hand of course). At the time of publishing I’m reading One Day by David Nichols and I’m finding it delectable. The writing style is so soothing and familiar and whenever I pick it back up I find myself entranced, forgetting the concept of time completely.

This floral dress is one I picked up from a charity shop whilst doing so was still allowed, and I adore the loose, shirty ambiance and leafy print. It’s vintage M&S (complete with shoulder pads) and was about £3! Obviously when thrifting there’s no debating over what size you can choose, so this is a large and thankfully the belted waist keeps the material in check. Regardless, the baggy fit is ideal for me and I’m enjoying rocking a long, floaty skirt.

I’m back in my teenage bedroom, which has altered considerably in the years I have occupied it. There was the single bed that was ousted for a bunk bed only because I longed to sleep on the double mattress at the top; the bed with crystal knobs at each four poster that encountered as many rotations as possible in that inexplicable youthful desire to try out different combinations of furniture to feel like we have power over something.

In my final year of university my sister and her husband moved in with my baby nephew for a few months before jetting off to New Zealand. The setup has remained the same since I left for London: bed in the centre, clothes rail displaying the straggling items that didn’t quite make the cut to come with me, unused guitar collecting dust in the corner.

There is an unusual peacefulness and warm nostalgia that engulfs me under the covers, even in these disastrous circumstances. I’m back where it all started. I’m working from home at the same desk I studied for my GCSEs and A-Levels. As a result of the lockdown, my core family unit is reunited, but the dynamics have switched in a wonderful way.

My brother has returned from Bournemouth University, now attending his hospitality lectures via video call. My mum is a nurse, proving her commitment to her profession through the selfless acknowledgement that the next few months will be hell and she will do whatever she can to care for her patients. My dad is a self-employed local gardener and is still working as he has no contact with his customers.

Where we once used to bicker and fight spitefully, there is a communal air of love and appreciation. If one of us loses our temper and lashes out, we are quick to apologise and make up. We all pull our weight, whereas formerly there would be sloppiness and laziness and a lack of responsibility (although my mum still nags about the tobacco on the breakfast bar that will never move until us siblings quit smoking completely).

I like to think my sister left a legacy here with the ‘sister’ print she bought me for the first birthday I had after she emigrated. We were always close; as a kid I vividly remember lying in her room watching her get dressed up to go to parties, motivated by the soundtrack of classic 90s R&B; or waking up on her floor sometime on Christmas morning to exclaim that Santa had been!

Once she moved in again we were inseparable, gossiping and chatting and sharing secrets. I miss her so much, but this framed token is a reminder that distance is merely physical. This has been a valuable reminder to me throughout the pandemic: despite being miles away I have felt closer to my network than ever before.

The awareness that at the click of a WhatsApp chat or swipe of a text I can communicate with the people I see on a regular basis has combatted those aches for simpler times and the hateful attitude towards technology. I have never been more thankful for it. While I know I will respect the power of a hug more than ever when this is all over, I have in some cases never felt more connected.

There have been weekly quiz nights with family members that I tend to only see in person once a year. I have FaceTimed my mates to discuss the ins and outs of our isolation. Regular video calls keep my team and I in better correspondence than we typically uphold in the office – although wine may play a part in that. The throwaway after-work drinks are now a haven of conversation over Zoom, the desire to get hammered replaced with the laughter of board games and genuine interest in each others’ schedules.

I jumped on board the happy nails movement (inspired by funky Instagram posts) with a vigorous ecstasy, digging out the brightest pastel hues from my decaying nail polish bag with a reinforced excitement towards self care. I’m really shit at painting nails (or anything else vaguely artistic), but each badly topped up cuticle gave me a sliver of hope and delight at the simplicity of it all.

Like with any adaptation, the debut isolation week was difficult. I suffered from persisting headaches, which I am mostly immune to, and an unfaltering weakness that forced me to sleep earlier that I’d wanted. I put the pain down to the exhaustion of what is going on attacking my mind relentlessly, and the tiredness I blame on uncompromising fear.

Even when I consciously swerve the news, it seeps into the unmaintained corners of my brain, sinisterly reminding me that there is nowhere to hide. Thankfully I know many of my friends feel the same, so the confidence I share with them reinforces the fact that we are in this together.

While I am a huge advocate that the positives of Coronavirus are few and far between, I am understandably clinging onto any goodness I can get my hands on right now. I am exercising more than I have done – or even wanted to – for months. I am blossoming through the power of a weekly 10k run, or a quick walk on my lunch break to indulge in the gift that is one outing a day.

My freckles are making an appearance far earlier than they annually dare to, encouraged by the act of swapping a sweaty, enclosed gym for the natural remedy of vitamin D. I couldn’t be more overjoyed! I used to despise the little brown dots that adorn my nose; now I embrace their signal that summer is on its way and I am spending more time in the sun.

I have been up the Crug, a hill walk near my house, a million times before, but something just hits differently now I make the pilgrimage up there. I used to rush it; focused on the calories I anticipated I would burn by scaling its mud-caked levels of elevation. Now I soak it all up, amazed by the views of the incredible Welsh mountains, fresh air and the tranquil atmosphere.

BLOUSE Warehouse | KNITTED VEST Charity shop find

The ritual of getting dressed has always been important to me. I thrive through selecting pieces that empower and lift me up to achieve goals depending on the occasion, whether that’s the office or a day out.

In the past when working from home I made minimal effort, however under the circumstances I am trying hard to brighten my mood with the frivolity of sartorial joy. Even if it’s in the form of comfy trousers and a baggy jumper, I’m in a clearer headspace than if I remain in pyjamas. Some days I wear make up (usually if I have a Zoom call for work, as these are now the highlight of my social life), others I am bare-faced and kitted out in gym gear so I can go for a jog when it’s most convenient.

I can safely say that this incredible Warehouse shirt was the best slightly tipsy decision I have probably ever made. It was the first of the inevitable online shopping sprees (now added to the list is a much needed Glossier & The Body Shop haul), and I was previously unaware of how much elation an oversized collar and ruffled cuffs could bring. It’s a low-budget alternative to that amazing Ganni shirt (see here for reference), proving that collars truly are having their moment in the spotlight.

The knitted vest was a £1 charity shop find with potential; in my head whilst handing over the money I was calculating how beautifully it would compliment a jazzy white top peeking out from underneath the pastel blue, and voila! Dreams really do come true. I love how the intricate sleeves and lacy back are accentuated rather than hidden through clever layering, and the colours are easing me into a lighter spring mindset after the gloom of winter and the last few weeks.

If there’s a trend you’re looking to invest in, I implore you to scour your local charity shops or vintage retailers before opting for fast fashion. Obviously shopping in person isn’t possible whilst we’re self-isolating, but a lot of stores have a dedicated online space. Try Oxfam, Cow, Waiste Vintage for a good place to start! If you are able to, supporting small businesses and charities is so useful as they are most likely hit hardest by the current climate.

One reason I have had to start thinking outside the box in terms of styling ensembles is because I left the majority of my clothes at my nan’s in London. I wasn’t expecting to be lodging in Wales for such a long period of time, but the virus hit while I was still visiting here so it made sense to stay. In a way it’s a blessing, as I’m forced to dig through old Ikea bags forgotten at the back of cupboards full of items I was planning to sell or donate, and have found a new rush of affection for some pieces!

For once my terrible habit of overpacking has also worked in my favour, as I did throw a load of random bits into my travel bag so I have enough to keep on rotation. Conjuring up new and unique combinations of accessories has been a thrill that’s kept me going, and will definitely remind me to be more adventurous and thankful for what I already have when I’m reunited with the better half of my wardrobe. Note that most of the indoors images are shot from the waist up as, let’s be honest, I’m not driven enough to step out of anything other than my slippers.

I keep all my festival clothes here too just waiting for their yearly exposure to a Carling-soaked field, so outfits might start to get a lot more funky when I really run out of options!

While there’s a gap left in my diary where spontaneous nights out and road trips should be, I’m feeling quite refreshed at the thought of having no plans. There’s no pressure to rush anywhere, to accidentally double-book or have to decline invitations, which is a gigantic contrast and kind of a welcome relief. I’m relishing time to chill, rest properly and look after myself.

How are you spending time in lockdown? I’m always open to inspiration for new things to do!

Lily x

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